LONDON: British counter-terror police were questioning a 29-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder yesterday after a stabbing attack in a London Underground train station that is being treated as a “terrorist incident”. Detectives from Britain’s Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) were searching a home in east London in connection with Saturday’s attack at Leytonstone station, which left a 56-year-old man with serious knife injuries.
Amateur video footage of the incident showed one passer-by shouting “You’re no Muslim” at the suspect as he was pinned down by officers in the ticket hall, where a pool of blood was seen on the ground. Sky News television reported that the man “apparently shouted ‘this is for Syria’,” although it did not quote anyone. Police could not confirm the report when contacted by AFP and it is not evident from video footage circulating online.
“As a result of information received at the time from people who were at the scene and subsequent investigations carried out by the CTC, I am treating this as a terrorist incident,” said the police unit’s chief Richard Walton. “I would continue to urge the public to remain calm, but alert and vigilant.”
Saturday’s attack came at the end of a week in which the British parliament voted to extend air strikes on the Islamic State jihadist group from Iraq into Syria. The attack also comes less than a month after the Nov 13 terror attacks in Paris, claimed by IS, which killed 130 people. Police said the stabbed 56-year-old man was in a stable condition in an east London hospital and his injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. A second man sustained a minor injury but did not require medical assistance, while a woman was threatened by the suspect but was not injured, police said.
Amateur video shows a pool of blood and bloody footprints at the ticket gates of the suburban Leytonstone Tube station. Shouts are heard as the suspect is seen remonstrating with people before swinging at one of them. Officers shout “Drop the knife!” and fire Taser electric stun guns. “Who is this idiot?” one onlooker says of the suspect, adding: “Yes! Stupid idiot,” after the man is Tasered.
Officers shout “Put the knife down!” and “Drop it now!” at the stunned man, who does drop the short-bladed knife as he quivers on the ground. On his front, the man is handcuffed behind his back while another officer pins him down with his knee and passers-by are told to get back. One man then shouts at the suspect: “You ain’t no Muslim, bruv! You’re no Muslim, bruv! You ain’t no Muslim!” The hashtag #YouAintNoMuslimBruv was trending on Twitter on Sunday as people reacted to the news.
Salim Patel, 59, who runs the station shop, said: “I saw the guy attacking the victim, punching him so hard. The victim was screaming ‘please, somebody help me. Help’. The attacker started kicking him on the floor. I think the victim was unconscious, he passed out. Then the attacker took a knife out and started stabbing him as he lay on the floor.” Witness Khayam told the BBC that when the suspect was taken to a police van, “I saw pedestrians shouting at him… one pedestrian tried to throw a bottle.”
Police said they were initially alerted at 7:06 pm (1906 GMT) Saturday to the “violent unprovoked knife attack”. Officers attempted to engage with the man but were threatened with violence, police said. He was arrested at 7:14 pm (1914 GMT). Britain’s national terror threat level was raised in Aug 2014 to severe, the second-highest of five levels, meaning an attack is considered highly likely.
London’s transport system was hit in July 2005 by a series of suicide bomb attacks that killed 52 people. A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron’s Downing Street office said: “We are monitoring the situation closely as further details emerge”. Leytonstone station was open again yesterday, with a police officer standing guard outside. – AFP